Google’s latest “helpful content” update and what you need to know

The following is great news if you’re a dental marketing specialist writing helpful content for dental patients. But this is terrible news for anyone trying to improve their SEO rankings by writing content that reads like it’s written by a robot.

Why Google launched the helpful content update

Google has been receiving data from feedback loops in Google search and social media comments for some time that consumers aren’t happy with the quality of content in their searches. Google has been hearing this for years, so the helpful content tweak is long overdue.

There is a lot of online content written specifically for the Google algorithm rather than for consumers. Consumers don’t find this content helpful, yet it’s showing up high in search results. The helpful content update is just what the name suggests—an attempt to improve the content in the search engine so that it’s actually helpful to consumers. 

Here is what Google said about the update: “. . . the ‘helpful content update’ is part of a broader effort to ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results.”

What you should know about Google’s helpful content update

Read what Google announced about the update. This update may affect dental websites if they contain content specifically for search engine visibility and website traffic. If you’re a dentist concerned about your Google rankings, this update is especially for you.

Helpful content update quick facts

  1. It started the week of August 22.
  2. The full implementation of the update will take place over the course of a few weeks.
  3. The consequences of the update were not mentioned, but it appears that SEO rankings will be updated.
  4. The update features an automated machine learning model instead of a manual process.
  5. The update will not cover other Google assets, such as AdSense.
  6. The objective focuses on content that intends to rank highly in search rather than being helpful to consumers.
  7. Depending on the dental website’s importance, some will be more affected by the update than others.
  8. Even if the website contains much low-quality material, high-quality patient-first content will continue to rank well.
  9. If the update negatively affects your dental website, you should update your content according to Google’s content creation recommendations.

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The update and your dental website

Although the metrics that Google will use to rank the quality of content is unknown, one thing is for sure; your overall dental website design will play a part. Google will likely use metrics to measure the engagement of visitors and your website to determine quality. I believe they’ll be looking at time on site, clicks, scrolling, the types of media on the page, and whether people have interacted with those assets. 

If your website design looks great, has clear calls to action, answers visitor questions quickly, and encourages interaction with the page, you’ll have met Google’s requirements. If your site is not intuitive, not mobile optimized, and the dental web design is not up to par, it will likely negatively affect your rankings over time. 

Google also said, “Any content—not just unhelpful content—on sites determined to have relatively high amounts of unhelpful content overall is less likely to perform well in search, assuming there is other content elsewhere from the web that’s better to display. For this reason, removing unhelpful content could help the rankings of your other content.” 

There have been questions online about whether the update will affect all pages of a site or just the low-quality ones. This question was posed on Twitter to Danny Sullivan from Google. He said, “We tend to see subdomains apart from root domains, but it also depends on many factors.” 

In English, please. He means that the rankings of the entire website would not fall because of a couple of bad apples. It’s a bit cryptic because he also said, “… it also depends on many factors.”

Should you use a no-follow index to get rid of low-quality content?

A no-follow index means instructing Google to ignore material on your website, so it isn’t indexed. It means that it’s not going to show up in search engines. You can use a no-follow index, but you should consider the obvious question, “If it’s low-quality content, why keep it on your website?”

Should you rewrite low-quality content?

The helpful content update is automated, so the content will be regularly evaluated. You could rewrite low-quality pages rather than deleting them. But you should know that the update is not evaluating and changing rankings in real-time. Google needs time to see if your new content is valuable. It’s possible that you could rewrite it and it’s still low-quality. 

To determine whether it’s better quality or not, you’ll have to wait for Google to evaluate. During this time, your rankings will be lower, and no one knows how long this waiting period will be.

How to write high-quality dental website content

This is actually pretty simple. If you write content that your patients find valuable, you’ll have high-quality content. 

Ask yourself these questions when it comes to writing high-quality content.

  1. Is the content written with a patient-first mindset?
  2. Do your website visitors leave a page knowing that they’ve received an answer to their question?
  3. Would you trust the information on the page?
  4. Is it evident that an expert writes the content?
  5. Are there any duplicate, overlapping, or redundant phrases?
  6. Is the content more valuable than other content about the same topic?
  7. Does the writer show both sides of an argument?
  8. Does your dental web design show attention to detail?
  9. Does the content provide value beyond the obvious?
  10. Is the content well-edited? 

How to track whether your rankings are going up or down

If you’re working with a dental SEO company, you should ask them to report on your rankings over the next few weeks. The update should show an up or down shift as the update takes place. If you don’t have an SEO company, you can run a ranking report here for free. You can come back and rerun it in a few weeks to see what has happened with your rankings.

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